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A few years ago, the idea that a Korean pop, or K-pop, group would perform to sold-out shows worldwide, top the Billboard 200 charts, and dethrone global phenom Taylor Swift's YouTube record for the biggest music video debut, would have been met with some skepticism. But the Bangtan Boys, or BTS as they are popularly called, have managed to accomplish all three feats, proving beyond doubt that music is a “universal language” which transcends across countries, languages, and cultures.
The success of the seven-member boy band, who range in age from 21 to 25 years old, can largely be attributed to their social awareness, which profoundly connects with their young audience. Instead of singing or rapping about heartbreaks and drugs, the group takes on social issues like mental illness, consumerism, school violence, and education disparity. BTS fans, known collectively as ARMY, or Adorable Representative MC of Youth, say the boy band’s lyrics have inspired and brought them together.
The group’s concern for society’s problems and injustices does not end with their lyrics. In November 2017, BTS partnered with UNICEF for an anti-violence campaign called “Love Myself” to end violence against children and young people. With some help from the boy band and its strong ARMY, the nonprofit managed to raise $1 million within six months.
On September 24, 2018, BTS became the first K-pop group to be invited to speak at the United Nations Youth 2030 event for the launch of “Generation Unlimited.” The UNICEF initiative “aims to ensure that every young person is in education, learning, training or employment by 2030.”
BTS leader RM (Kim Namjoon), flanked by his six fellow band members, took the mic. However, instead of talking about education and vocation, RM focused on self-acceptance and inspiration. The 24-year-old began by talking about his childhood and how happy he had been until the age of nine or ten, when he started worrying about what people thought of him. “I tried to jam myself into the other molds that other people made,” he said. “Soon, I began to shut out my own voice and listen to the voice of others. No one called out my name and neither did I... Like this, I—we—all lost our names. We became like ghosts.”
The 24-year-old urged youngsters to "Tell me your story. I want to hear your voice, and I want to hear your conviction. No matter who you are, where you're from, your skin color, gender identity: speak yourself. Find your name [and] find your voice.” The famous rapper concluded by saying that though he still suffers from self-doubt and anxiety, he is learning to overcome it. "I have many faults, and I have many fears, but I am going to embrace myself as hard as I can, and I'm starting to love myself, little by little." While RM may have reminded fans that he, like everyone else, is not perfect, his speech, which resonates with both young and old, certainly was.
Resources: CNN.com, Forbes.com,metro.co.uk